Brad Savage never really gave playing football much thought.
Not in middle school or when he entered Nekoosa High School. He played youth soccer with the Rapids Kickers and basketball and he was content with that.
When his friends on the football team asked him to give it a try, he didn’t say no, but he kind of put off the decision.
His friends — and even Nekoosa football coach Jason Becker — became more persistent during his sophomore year because the team would need a kicker for the 2012 season.
Savage still was uncertain about playing football the summer before his junior year. His friends finally twisted his arm on equipment issue day last year.
“I got a call from one of the guys and he said I needed to be at at school to get my equipment and I went over to school and that was it,” Savage said. “I’m not sure I really planned on it, but it was tough to say no to the guys.”
Senior Dylan Bauer was on the other end of phone call, “I was at equipment hand out and wondered, ‘Where is Bradley?’ so I called him and told him to get to practice, and he did. I asked him almost every day what number he wanted. It took a lot of prodding, but he’s been great since he came out.”
The decision to play paid off for the Papermakers and Savage alike.
Nekoosa claimed its fourth straight South Central Conference and Savage was the first-team selection at kicker on the all-SCC team in his first year of high school.
“I was really surprised to be all-conference because I never thought about awards or anything like that,” Savage said. “I was having fun kicking, being with my friends and have something to do in the fall.”
Becker was happy that Savage decided to play and pleasantly surprised at his abilities.
“He was on our radar for a long time and with his soccer background, we thought he could be a good kicker for us,” Becker said. “Brad caught on quick and we were able to count on him for extra points, which have become automatic for him. And if we get inside the 35, we feel confident we’re going to walk away with some points.”
Savage learned on the fly as a junior and was just handled kickoffs, field goals and PATs. He’s added punting to his responsibilities this year.
To improve on kicking and learn the timing for punting, he went to the Elite Kicking Solutions camp this summer.
“I learned a lot there,” Savage said. “I picked up some finer points on kicking and learned the timing and steps for punting.
“My first punt this year was almost blocked, so I have to keep working on punting every day. Extra points and field goals are the same to me. My focus and approach is the same and me being successful helps the team.”
His talents have gone beyond the notice of the SCC coaches. Colleges have been sending letters and Becker has been contacted by coaches to gauge Savage’s interest in playing at the next level.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has said he’s raw, but has a ton of upside,” said Becker, who noted that Illinois State and Northern Illinois have shown interest at the Division I level. “I don’t think he realizes what his potential his and that he could play at the college level. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind. I think he can be successful if that’s what he wants to do.”
Division II University of Minnesota-Duluth and Southwest Minnesota State, as well as several of the WIAC schools have shown interest in Savage.
“I really don’t know if I’ll play in college,” he said. “It’s kind of weird to me that colleges want me to play football for them. I’m just having fun with it right now. I’ll probably make a decision on football when I figure out where I want to go to school.”